How does water for the environment benefit native angling fish?

Written by the Victorian Environmental Water Holder

Fish need flows, and as we have ‘turned off the tap’ to many of our major rivers and wetlands, water for the environment is needed if fish are going to survive and thrive.

The good news is that water for the environment can be delivered to 28 of the top 50 fishing spots in Victoria providing great opportunities for fish to feed and breed.

Though water for the environment can mean any water in a river or wetland that benefits the environment, here we are referring to the water that is set aside in dams and reservoirs, or pumped from a river to a wetland, and intentionally delivered for the benefit of plants and animals, including native fish.

Water for the environment reintroduces some of the river flows – and foods and habitats – that our native fish depend on. Across Victoria, the popular native angling species that environmental water targets each year are black bream, Macquarie perch, estuary perch, silver perch, golden perch, freshwater catfish and Murray cod.

Timing is equally, if not more, critical. Since the development of dams and weirs to supply water to farms and towns in summer, rivers that were naturally low in summer are now high in summer, and vice versa. Environmental water managers try to ‘correct’ this to some degree and mimic in some way what nature would have done.

There have been success stories for native fish – environmental flows have helped to connect disconnected parts of the drying Glenelg River, allowing estuary perch and tupong to travel hundreds of kilometres. Environmental flows in Gunbower Creek have resulted in records of Murray cod of mixed ages, and have facilitated successful cod nesting and breeding. Environmental flows have also kept the Wimmera River running during successive dry years, and have helped to maintain habitat, including for one ‘famous’ fish – a large golden perch affectionately known as ‘Spotted Bess’ – which has been caught for many years in a row.

There is an increasing body of evidence that water for the environment is working and improving habitat and connectivity, and that means good outcomes for native fish and angling communities.

Want to know more about water for the environment? Watch the video from the Victorian Environmental Water Holder below called Why do we need environmental water? or visit

Recommended for you

Subscribe to our mailing list

Join our 50,000+ subscribers in receiving our Fishing Lines News delivered straight to your inbox. Don’t miss out on all the issues affecting your fishing, projects improving your fishing and opportunities to have your say about your fishery.

* indicates required
Communication Preferences (tick all that apply)